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Jan 9, 2015

Supreme Court Green Lights Cane Farmers’ Application for Writ of Mandamus

Cane-farmers, those called the “radicals” by Prime Minister Dean Barrow, this morning got a green light from the Supreme Court to argue for an Order of Mandamus against the Sugar Industry Control Board. That substantive hearing is weeks away on February twenty-third. The intent is to convince the Court that the SICB does have the obligation and authority under the Sugar Industry Act to start the crop…and to get the Court to order the SICB to do so. The decision by the Court is significant and the battle was hard fought even though a hearing and then a ruling may come too late for the industry.  We start our coverage tonight with the legal wrangling over the lifeblood of the north. Mike Rudon has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

It seemed that a significant portion of the Bar Association was packed into the Courtroom of Justice Shona Griffith this morning. All parties had legal representation – in pairs – the Minister of Agriculture, the BSCFA, BSI, the SICB and cane-farmer Lucilo Teck. Attorney Audrey Matura-Shepherd, on behalf of Teck, sought the permission of the Court for a substantive Mandamus hearing. Attorneys for the SICB and BSI, Senior Counsels Rodwell Williams and Michael Young, respectively, fought to have the application struck down and thrown out because, in a nutshell, it was filed incorrectly. But after two hours, the judge granted the order, much to the chagrin of those who maintain it should have been thrown out.

 

Rodwell Williams, Attorney for SICB

Rodwell Williams

“That is our view, and the judge decided that she would nevertheless grant the permission to bring what we consider to be an irretrievably flawed fixed date claim, and the judge can do that. That’s what she did.”

 

Michael Young

Michael Young, Attorney for BSI

“The wrong papers were filed and I don’t think there was that much of a disagreement on their part. The court recognized that the papers in the way that they were prepared and filed were not correct. Our position was that you need to formulate your case properly and file it before the Court can even have jurisdiction to entertain what you are seeking to have. The Court looked at the intent and substance of the documents that were filed, and took the position that indeed there was an application before the Court for permission to file judicial review.”

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Attorney for Lucilo Teck

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“Applications are made before the Court many times. It can have errors, it can have misstatements…it can have anything. But under our civil procedure rule, a technicality of that nature, where the form should have said Form eleven instead of a fixed date form which is a form two, the Court has an inherent jurisdiction and the judge has the power to exercise her discretion using the over-riding objective which is the justice of the situation, the public interest of the issue, the financial standing of the person and putting everybody on an equal playing field.”

 

Now the legal aspect is one thing, but reality on the ground is quite another. The hearing is set for February twenty-third, six weeks away…and that is not good news for the farmers who MUST deliver cane because their very survival depends on it.

 

Ezequiel Cansino

Ezequiel Cansino, Chairman, Committee of Management, BSCFA

“We heard everything and we are very concerned. That’s why we are trying to consult with the attorneys to see what legal advice they can give us because I don’t believe that the cane-farmers will be able to wait that time at least to hear this case.”

 

Reporter

“Can you give us an idea of the real implications for farmers in terms of cane that is in the field to be harvested and delivered?”

 

Ezequiel Cansino

“Well we have been saying that we have already been having losses because of the delay, and if we have to wait six weeks more then I think that definitely there care cane-farmers that will disappear from the list of cane-farmers.”

 

Alfredo Ortega remains optimistic because the support by the Judge signals to him that there is indeed much merit to the case. Still, these men are farmers at heart and by trade, and the delay of six weeks is not welcome news.

 

Alfredo Ortega, Director, Orange Walk Branch, BSCFA

Alfredo Ortega

“Really this can put the situation in jeopardy because as you know farmers have been agitating…well farmers have been prepared to start a crop from the eighth of December, and with the ongoing situation we don’t have a crop at this time. So we thought that the situation would be started with urgency, but we have reached to this point and we only hope that we can sit down together with BSI. I don’t think that will happen because we clearly heard what the Prime Minister said yesterday. But I think that if the Prime Minister would look to help the farmers I think that he can come and make a way forward before anything is finalized in the Court, because it is the livelihood of the farmers that is affected. It is the industry as a whole that is affected.”

 

There were attempts by the judge to expedite the hearing, but parties for the SICB and BSI insisted on the maximum time allowable to prepare for hearing. That, Matura-Shepherd says, is all part of the strategy to pressure the cane-farmers. Mike Rudon reporting for News Five.

 

 

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2 Responses for “Supreme Court Green Lights Cane Farmers’ Application for Writ of Mandamus”

  1. farmer says:

    Stupid Government, they are playing politics! Dean Barrow, Gapi have a big share at ASR/BSI. Ball head you better win Belize City caz ur not wining Orange Walk nor Corozal.

  2. CEO says:

    The farmers need to stand together and do not let any one farmer suffer alone because the outcome will benefit all cane farmers.

    When ever one wants good, it never come easily; it comes with suffering! I do not know of anyone who stands up for change any where in the world and had an easy time.

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